The Midlothian City Council further discussed road improvements and how to fund these projects at its budget workshop meeting Tuesday, Aug. 20.
City Manager Don Hastings said that the city staff's biggest concern at this time is the extension of 14th Street to relieve the strain on Farm-to-Market Road 663.
“We all know the state has no plans to widen 663 and the bridge was a weak link, which we are addressing with the bridge widening,” Hastings said. “Ultimately, that does not resolve the issue with FM 663.”
Mayor Bill Houston noted that the extension of 14th Street is also very necessary for emergency medical and fire service in the southern sector.
Assistant City Manager and Finance Director Chris Dick presented a detailed analysis of the rollback tax rate and how it would affect the city's bond capacity.
“Setting the tax rate at the rollback tax rate would add $173,000 in revenue a year and also give the city an available $2.25 million debt capacity,” Dick said.
He also provided spreadsheet that showed how the tax increase would affect Midlothian homeowners. Annually, families could expect to see a increase of $10 to $21 per year, depending on the value of their property. The average home value in Midlothian will see a $13 increase in annual taxes.
Councilman T.J. Henley noted that for most of the city's residents, that amounts to $2-3 a month, or the average cost of a cup of coffee.
Hastings noted that the city's debt capacity for this budget year has already been set, but in the future, that $173,000 could be applied to a bond issuance to fund needed road projects.
Council member Jimmie McClure said if the city issued a bond that would require raising taxes, she wanted the citizens to have a say in the matter and put it to a vote.
“This year that $173,000 if you set the rollback tax rate, will all go to M&O (maintenance and operations),” Dick explained.
The council previously decided that this extra M&O revenue would be earmarked for the road rehabilitation fund.
“If we approve the rollback tax rate, I want to be able to tell our citizens for what roads this money is for, not just say it's for roads,” Mayor Pro Tem Joe Frizzell said.
Houston asked Hastings directly how quickly the 14th Street project could be completed if the city moved aggressively.
“It takes about nine months for design and right-of-way acquisition, then it would be a couple of months before you could drive on it,” Hastings said.
City Engineer Mike Adams presented a spreadsheet of possible options for improving 14th Street and Walnut Grove. These options included different scenarios of two- or four-lane roads of concrete, asphalt or chip seal materials.
Of these, the council favored a two-lane concrete extension of 14th Street from Mt. Zion Road to Ashford Lane and a chip seal surface road from Ashford Lane to McAlpin. The cost would be $4.56 million and $1.39 million, respectively, for a total cost of $5.95 million.
For Walnut Grove, the council looked at either a two-lane concrete or four-lane divided concrete road costing $5.16 million or $7.57 million, respectively. The council members and city staff also discussed the agreement from Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Brown to provide labor for this project as several portions of Walnut Grove Road are serviced by the city and county.
As the council members and staff discussed funding options for these projects, Hastings said that some of the $6 million bond funds already available for the future community park could be used for 14th Street, which will serve park traffic, and reimbursed at a later date.
He noted that not all of the $6 million could be committed to the 14th Street project, and that it would require some work to determine exactly how much could be set aside.
The council directed Hastings and his staff to analyze the different funding options available for 14th Street and to look at separate funding for Walnut Grove.